Wow...I canít believe this weekend is finally over. Itís been a whirlwind of emotions and experiences that have reshaped my thinking of the world and my place in it.
John Carpenter called early last week and asked if he could come up this weekend and cook for my family. I told him that that would be nice and that Iíd contact him later in the week to confirm the number of people heíd have to feed. Iím not sure why John chose to do something so nice for all of us. I guess it could have been in payment of our friendship the last time he came up or simply a gesture of kindness. It really doesnít matter, Iíd never look a gift horse in the mouth, especially one thatís doing the cooking. When I called him back, he told me to expect him between noon and one on Saturday. When Saturday rolled around, life kinda threw a monkey wrench into the normal rolling along of the roller coaster I call my life.
I was at home with the kids trying to get my place cleaned up before John showed up. I had intended to go into work but my truck was back in the shop with the *same* water leak that Twin Cities Auto Works supposedly fixed on Wednesday. Mom was at the CUE and Dad and Michelle had ran up the hill to do some hunting. Michelle had asked the night before if I would run through the cows in the morning and just make sure everyone was all right. Long about 10 or 10:30, Gene knocked on the door and told me that one of Dadís cows had calved and had prolapsed. She was paralyzed and the calf was dead and half eaten by coyotes. He told me the cow was still alive but someone needed to make a decision on what to do with her. I *hate* it when Dad leaves because this shit *always* happens. The last time he was out of town and left the cows to me, Stevie went down with milk fever and didnít respond until I had two bottles of milk fever medicine in her. This was worse...much worse. I called and left a message for Dad and Michelle on Dadís cell phone then called Larry to see what he thought. We kind of made a collective decision that I should go take a look at the cow and if she was bad enough, I should shoot her or find someone that could help me put her down. I knew I could make a decision on my own but itís nice to have people whoís suggestions you respect to bounce ideas off of. I know Larry is not much of a cattle person but I related this whole thing back to a business decision and I knew Larry would be a good one to call in that sense. I decided to run over to Mom and Dadís and get the .22 pistol. Iím good enough with that gun that I knew I could do the job if I unloaded the gun into her. Unfortunately, when I got there and retrieved the gun, I discovered that there were no shells. I put the gun back and opted for plan B....find someone to help. I figured it would be wisest for me to get out there and at least take a look at her though. Kaleigh and I set out on one quad followed by Ty on the other. When we crossed the road headed out to Geneís far green, Gene met us in the road. I killed the quad to chat with Gene about the whole scenario and told him of my dilemma with the pistol. I noticed he had his rifle and asked if he wouldnít mind shooting the cow. He told me that he would have shot her sooner but he wanted someone to give him the ok. I told him we would follow him out and Iíd have a look. When we pulled up next to the cow, it was obvious that she needed to be taken out of her misery. The calf was probably the biggest red calf any of Dadís cows has had all season. When we threw it in the bucket of the scoop tractor later, it almost reached end to end. It was partially dismembered by some marauding coyotes. The cow was not far away with damn near all of her insides laying outside behind her. When I approached her, she tried to get up and thatís when I noticed her whole rear end was useless to her. She was paralyzed. I shook my head when I took the whole scene in and told Gene ďNo way...we arenít gonna mess with thisĒ. I asked him to go ahead and shoot her then I loaded the kids up on the bikes and started to ride away. I know they are big enough to start to see this side of farming and the responsibilities that go along with it but I thought it would be better to skip it this time. The imagery we had taken in at that point seemed to be enough for one day. Kaleigh protested as we rode away explaining that she wanted to watch but I kept riding. When we got to the gate, Gene wasnít far behind and I told him that when Michelle got home, she and I would drag the whole lot out to the dead pile.
went back to the house and Michelle and Dad showed up a little later.
Michelle went to get the tractor and the kids and I rode out near the
pond to wait for her. I figured we could take out a heavy chain and help her out.
John showed up about then and we all headed out to take care of the cow.
We pulled up to the cow and I canít explain the horror I felt when I
realized....she wasnít dead. Gene
had shot her but the bullets had either glanced off or had passed through
another portion of her head and not done a thing to her.
John and I ran back to the house to try to find a gun that would do the
job. I called Dad and he said I may
as well just take a knife out and stick her.
With no gun in the house suited for shooting at close range like that, I
took my knife and headed back out. I
handed the knife to Michelle, she looked me square in the eye and said ďI hate
thisĒ. I cannot begin to explain
my respect for her. How hard it
must be to find the intestinal fortitude to stick a blade into the neck of a
living, breathing being and take itís life...no matter what the reason. She never fails to gain my utmost awe in her abilities as a
person. She walked up to that cow, knelt
beside her, placed a hand on her cheek and made the cut as quickly as she could.
The cow raised her head and tried one last time to get up.
She bawled. Now, I recall
one time getting cattle ready for the fair where a heifer ran into a panel and
ran a broken board down her juglar vein. She
died within 5 minutes of backing off that panel.
I assumed, rather erroneously, that this cow would be gone within
minutes. She had laid there so long
and her blood pressure was so low that it took her a long time to give up.
She kept breathing. It was
hard to watch her side rise and fall. I
prayed she would just pass away, that her suffering would end.
She held on and held on. I
walked around to the west side of her body so I could block the sun from her
eyes. I just wanted her to be
comfortable. I was standing in her
blood. Kaleigh looked particularly small as she knelt by the cowís head,
stroked her cheek and talked to her. Tyler
was finally consumed by the event and fell apart.
He sat on the quad crying so hard he couldnít catch his breath.
He was truly heart broken. Michelle
walked away and hung her head. He
words were refreshed in my mind...ĒI hate thisĒ.
John walked up and I asked him if he was ok.
He said he was doing all right but he could never have held the knife.
I told him that experiences like this were the things that made me
respect life and wonder how on earth someone could lower a gun at someone else
and take a life and never experience the utter loss that I was feeling watching
this cow. I could feel my tears
finally break the dam made by my sunglasses and pour down my cheeks.
And still she hung on. Michelle
suggested that we go away for a while and return
later to finish what we had come to do.
I took the blanket Kaleigh had been using for a backrest out of the
basket on the quad and covered the cowís eyes.
I kept thinking that even a respite from the sun might be appreciated by
her. As we rode back to the house,
I told Michelle that I admired her ability to do what had to be done.
I grabbed her knee and shook it. She
told me she wished I hadnít done that and her emotions overflowed onto her
cheeks as well.
Michelle, Kaleigh and I rode out about a half hour later to get the cow out of the field. Silently I prayed that she had finally given up. I donít know if I could have pulled up to find her still breathing without totally losing it. John and Ty chose to stay at the pond and throw the ball for Cooper. John told me he wasnít ready to go back out there and Tyler had had enough as well. We pulled up to find that sparkle of life gone from 55ís eye and the harsh raspy breath gone from her body. I was so glad and gave thanks under my breath. It felt like some huge weight was gone from my shoulders and I just nodded when Michelle said ďAnd finally she restsĒ. The rest was easy. We hooked the chain onto the cows neck and I opened the gates so Michelle could drag her out to the dead pile. The whole ordeal spawned conversation over and over again for the rest of the weekend. I recall thinking about the hours the cow had to endure. How concerned she must have been after having the calf but paralysis preventing her from getting up to lick it dry or get it up to eat. How frightened she must have been when the coyotes came and ate the calf. How worried she must have been when someone came and shot her. How tired she must have been when her end came. Mom mentioned that fact that I relate human emotions to the animal but donít all animals work on the fight or flight response? What happens when you can do neither? All animals can experience fear. Her last 12 hours were probably nothing but fear.
Fortunately the afternoon proved a lot less painful with John cooking blackened pork chops for all of us. Well, I should say it was less painful for us...John got a hellofa nice blister on his palm when hot butter slopped out of the pan onto his hand. We all ate more than we should have then the kids went home with Mom and Dad and Michelle and John and I changed clothes and headed up to a party at Brian and Tucker OíHaraís place. We had a nice time and drank a few drinks and visited with some really nice people. We went into Rugbyís and saw Tracy, Mike and some others, drank a couple more drinks then headed home. It was nice with John driving. When we got home, I made a pot of coffee and we indulged in some of the chocolate chip cookies that John had brought. I think they were spiked with orange zest. We finally gave it up at 2. I kind of felt sorry for Michelle. She and Dad were leaving at 5 am to go up to Gillís and try their hand at deer hunting one more time. Mom dropped the kids off around 9 and they tumbled into the house like two puppies. They wrapped their ice cube arms around me and told me they loved me. It never ceases to amaze me at how warm those three little words make me coming out of those two little people. When Michelle got back, she and John went out for a few hours and fixed some fence. When they returned, we decided to run in and have some lunch before John took off.
Lunch was an interesting volley of dialog between the three of us with occasional interjections from the kids. We talked about Johnís perception of the two of us girls. He pointed out the fact that he thought I was in for a rude awakening when I realized that life just happens to people. That we really donít have any power in what happens. That we are all just along for the ride. Heís true believer in synchronicity. He thinks everything happens for a reason and that we donít get to decide what happens in our lives. I disagree. If Iím just along for the ride and I donít have any power in what happens to me, then donít wake me up and definitely donít tell me. Iím much happier in my little world where I believe that I can make choices that have a tremendous bearing on my own happiness and on the happiness and well being of people around me. I do have the power to decide what occurrences in my life prove to be earth shattering enough to matter and which ones arenít worth my time. I do have the power to forgive and forget. I do have the power to care enough to discuss whatís bothering me without attacking others. I do have the power to make myself happy. I do have the power and I will use it. I am responsible for me. I matter.
Whew! With all that said, I feel more like the super hero I hope to someday be. In the meantime, Iíll deal with and learn from the ďI hate thisĒ episodes in my life and cherish the fact that today, the sun came up, Iím wrapped in the belief that Iím not powerless and most importantly, I got another opportunity to have my heart melted by the words ďI love youĒ.